Oct 21, 2016

busy work

What an interesting couple of months it has been! I can’t even believe it’s been that long since I blogged, because it has been so busy that time has seriously just flown by!


Let me try and summarize:

August
It seems like we all had medevac on the brain; there was something like 1 a week during August. Each medevac is different and requires its own debriefings (departmental and leadership). Our processes have to be continually evaluated and revised. Josh was doing a lot of flying during this time, and our clinic was busy keeping up with all of the paperwork.

September
Get well, Bonnie - from the clinic staff!
Bonita, Freddy, Katy, Kevin, Michaela, Erin
One of my very good friends, and also the office-manager of our clinic became very ill and needed to go to the States for surgery. Amazingly, all of the pieces fell into place for her to go as soon as possible, and the Lord opened all the right doors to all the right people, and she’s now making a beautiful recovery! However, due to limited front office staffing (2 receptionists + 1 manager) in our clinic, the loss of the manager caused us to be more than short-staffed, and her duties fell to me. Those last couple of weeks in September I was on a steep learning curve and feeling a little overwhelmed trying to find a balance in everything.

October
Wall art - notes, cards, and art from home.
I finally found my rhythm as the interim-manager, and stopped feeling so overwhelmed with the new duties. I began to train two new ladies to work at the desk, so that I could do more of the manager stuff without overwhelming myself – they are doing so well, and fit right into our crazy little family! It isn’t a job that I would have volunteered for, but I’m finding that I actually enjoy it now that there’s a rhythm to it. It’s still hard being the “boss-meri” (aka, boss lady), and I’ve messed up and been rather grace-less a lot; but the Lord has been meeting me right there, and giving me the strength for each day as it comes.
You're never smarter than the other critters that want your bananas.
Josh and I have an awesome support system here, and everyone pulled together to help get the job done and not overwhelm or burnout anyone. A doctor from Northern Ireland came at just the right time to help with patients right at the same time one of our nurses left for more schooling in the States. Two ladies began training at the front desk so that we could all share the load four-ways, instead of two. I was lucky not to reach burnout, which so often happens with missionaries, but I can absolutely see how easy it would be to do:

Long-term mission work is a marathon, not a sprint, and it really does take a team to support and encourage you to keep going both physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
Making my own fall.
THANK YOU for being a part of that team for Josh and I! Your prayers, financial support, texts, emails, and letters are such an encouragement to us! They allow us to survive over here, and to keep going even when things get hard. They remind us of the bigger picture of God’s Kingdom work. They remind us that we’re not forgotten. They remind us that we’re loved. Again, thank you! 

Aug 5, 2016

july highlights

How can it be August already? Howww?? Time is moving way too fast right now.

I thought that summer would be slow and boring, but boy, was I wrong. It has been so busy and so full that I’m not sure I can even remember everything we’ve done! I just know that there hasn’t been much time for rest, or blogging.
A lovely day for a lunch date with my hubby!
📷: Erin Verdonck
July was super busy for us. The flight department is usually busier in the summer, what with people both coming and going for breaks, furlough’s, or new assignments. This means that Josh has been working full-time, and sometimes more, since he has two full-time jobs that he is doing right now. Pilot and flight coordinator. He’s been doing more flying lately, which is so encouraging, and he’s really enjoyed getting the experience, as well as seeing and encouraging our bush missionaries when he gets to see them, or fly them out for a break. The flight coordinator position is harder, since it requires organizing cargo, passengers, airplanes, fuel, weight, and personnel.
Amazing sights! An active volcano and a beautiful waterfall.
📷: Josh Verdonck
Just one of the many missionary families Josh gets to fly and encourage!
📷: Josh Verdonck
July also marked 1 year since we arrived in Papua New Guinea, and the first time in 3 years that we’ve lived in one place for more than 3 months. Woo! To celebrate, we went out to lunch with our E2 Orientation class (all 2 of them) and just hung out; there’s a special bond between us, since they were really our first friends in this country, and the ones we learned language and culture with.
Our E2 Orientation people. Me, Josh, Freddy, and Melanie. Just missing Brooks and Nina!
📷: Melanie Keeney
July also meant no doctor at our clinic: one is on furlough, and the other went to see his son get married. There was a temporary doctor who came to check out our clinic, and to get her feet wet in third-world doctoring. In hindsight, the Lord was in it all, because she came just in time and for just long enough, to help with a very serious and very scary medevac to Australia. During a medevac the medical clinic, headquarters, and NTMA all work very closely to complete all of the necessary (and enormous amounts of) paperwork: securing an accepting doctor in Australia, communicating with insurance companies, getting the airplane prepped, and keeping the patient alive (an wayyy more). During this medevac, it seemed that whatever could go wrong did go wrong. It was long hours of waiting, lots of prayers, and countless phone calls. It was chaos and tears. But it was also incredible: our team here is amazing, jumping to do what needed to be done and then some; and I think we’re all a little bit closer now. It probably sounds heartless since a woman was dying, but I felt alive during the whole thing, and I truly believe it was the Lord using it to show me that I am right where I should be. In the end… it was vibrant life, unspeakable joy, miraculous recovery, and glory to God.
The flight side of the medevac. This is the transition as our medical staff hands-off the patient to the hospital.
📷: Josh Verdonck
The medical clinic office side of things. Jessie, Me, and Dr. Shelly working together.
📷: Josh Verdonck
Another exciting thing that July held: cream. Yes, cream. Do you remember my post about how grocery shopping here is a lesson in hoarding? A lesson in appreciating what you have when you have it because you never know when it might disappear again? Well, it’s still true today. There has been no cream (the beautiful heavy kind for whipping, or pouring in your coffee) in the whole country since March. Have you ever tried baking and cooking with no cream; it eliminates a huge number of recipes. Well, it just came back into the store, and I definitely did a happy dance right there in front of the cooler. Luckily, everyone else was just as excited as I was, so my insanity wasn’t so obvious. I’ve learned that happiness comes in all forms, including a blue box of cream.
Insert all the heart eyes and happy faces.
I think those are the main highlights of July. I can’t wait to see what August will bring. Already it has brought some much-needed rain!

Jul 9, 2016

currently

I’ve been a bit gun-shy since my last post. I shared all about my trip into the bush to help put on a little preventative clinic for a village; since most of you who read here regularly know I work in the medical clinic this shouldn’t surprise you. However, the rest of the world is not as knowledgeable or understanding as you, and I encountered something I’ve never had to before: hate mail. Hundreds of hateful comments between Facebook, this blog, and my personal email.

The post and comments have since been removed, but the sting is still there, making me wary of writing again. The hateful comments, while they certainly hurt, are not the thing that upset me the most. It’s the ignorance. The ignorance that these treatable diseases are making a comeback, with deadly results in places like PNG where they can wipe out entire villages because there’s no access to treatment. Even if you choose not to vaccinate your children, they won’t die because there is help easily available there if they do get sick. You don’t have to watch your baby suffer and die from hepatits, or measles, or whooping cough, or tetanus. Without help, these village mamas do.
Sweet village mamas with their babies.
📷: Erin Verdonck
Apart from that, life here has been pretty quiet. Since graduation at the beginning of June, a lot of people have left for summer break or home assignment. At the end of July, many will return and many new people will arrive. Until then, I’m loving the quiet of the center, and the easy, relaxed attitude that is permeating the center. It helps that “summer” is a little cooler in this hemisphere, as it’s technically fall/winter on this half of the world. We don’t get much variation in temperature, but the cool mornings and evenings are a nice change.
A quiet day at the clinic front desk.
📷: Erin Verdonck
Josh has been flying and/or riding along a lot lately. In addition to flight time, he’s the flight coordinator in the hangar. This has been good, as it keeps him busy, plus he’s getting more experience in-country. Win-win! The Kodiaks have been a huge blessing here. They have opened up more opportunities to fly into our more remote, and far away areas. Once a week or so, a team of two pilots will fly to one of these areas and stay there for a night or two to get all of the flying done in that area. This is a huge encouragement to the missionaries there, who are often quite isolated.

Missionary aviation is dirty work - but someone's gotta do it!
📷: Josh Verdonck
We’ve also had a couple med-evacs from the tribe to our clinic lately. As one of the receptionists in our clinic, I get to work closely with NTMA’s flight coordinator (my hunky husband), to arrange transport for these med-evacs. It’s always amazing to me to watch our team here in PNG pull together to help out in these situations. Between the guest house preparing rooms for them, to people making meals for them and the clinic the staff, to people all over praying, to NTMA being on-call for a possible evac to Australia, to our nurses and doctors (and even receptionists) pulling all-nighters to give the best care they can. This is what the Church is; this is 1 Corinthians 12 in action, and it’s amazing.
Josh flying a med-evac.
📷: Josh Verdonck
Josh with one of our nurses and team transporting our med-evac patient
📷: Koen Verdonck

Jun 9, 2016

tribal trip

Last week I mentioned that I was heading into a tribal location to help our medical staff run a vaccine clinic, but due to some inclement weather on both ends, it was delayed until the next day.
View from my window.
Michaela Huebner
Since we knew that the weather in this location can get real bad real fast, we opted for a dawn departure to make sure we got in before the weather turned sour. This means leaving our center at 5am, driving to the hangar where minimal staff prep and load the airplane so we can leave by the time the sun rises. After about 30 minutes in the air, and a breathtaking sunrise, we landed on an airstrip that’s about a six-hour hike from the village we were aiming for.
Tribal airstrip. 6 hours from our final destination. See the helicopter waiting for us?
Everyone in the area comes to watch the missionaries unload from one aircraft and reload into another. They don't talk, just watch.
Michaela Huebner
This particular airstrip is on a mountain ridge-top that seems to be just long and just wide enough for it. There isn’t much on either side except trees and rocks heading straight down. Oh, and you land going up hill (take off going downhill). It’s a fantastic sight!
On the return journey, I got to sit in the front seat!
We were met there by a helicopter that would shuttle us and cargo in 2 groups over to the village; I’m so glad we could skip the six-hour hike! This was my first ever bush trip, and I had no idea what to expect. Once on the ground, we were greeted by the whole village! They lined up from the “heli-pad” to the door of the makeshift clinic so that we could shake everybody’s hand and greet them.
That's a lot of hands to shake!
Chris Walker
After the first “group” of handshakes was a wall of greenery; big palm branches and banana leaves formed a beautiful arch. Suddenly music and singing came from behind the green wall – there was a group of guitars serenading us as we walked through the green arch, received a beautiful hand-woven lei (marigolds and hibiscus) from the young women of the village, and shook even more hands right up to the door! It was a welcome I’ll never forget.
Shaking hands and taking selfies is super hard.
Since our time was limited to a one day clinic instead of two, we jumped right to work. One of our nurses showed me how to draw vaccines from the vials into the syringes, and gave me a lesson in shot-giving. We set up different stations: a “check-in” where some of the church/village leaders greeted and signed in patients, recording their names and ages. Next was a washing station, where arms and legs were washed with soap and water so the shots could be given without introducing infection. Next patients received up to 5 vaccines (some oral). Finally, there was the lollypop station, where everyone received a reward for letting us stick them with needles.
Everyone is going to sit and wait their turn.
They let me give shots!
Chris Walker
We started with the kids, and went until we were finished with all ~250 of them before we broke for lunch. I learned that squirming and screaming kids are really hard to give shots to, and that leg muscles (when squeezed tightly) can bend a needle.

We finished with the kids about lunch time and when I looked outside I saw – nothing! It was completely socked in with clouds. Not rain, not fog, not mist – normal clouds. Because of the elevation and location of this village, the clouds just roll right through the village in the middle of the day.
That's the missionaries house, in the middle of the day.
Lunch was simple and quick – pizza rolls, and for those of us brave enough to try it – roasted guinea pig. Yes, you read that right. Hey, I tried it!

After lunch we got back to work, this time vaccinating all the adults.  At the end of the day we saw about 440 people from two villages, and gave somewhere in the ballpark of 2000 vaccines.

We all went to bed really early, and were up early for another dawn departure to reverse the process (helicopter, Kodiak) to take us back home. It was a whirlwind, but so amazing to be a part of! Preaching isn’t always with a Bible, sometimes it’s by giving vaccines to keep a village healthy so they can live long enough to become missionaries themselves.
Wish I had gotten a picture of this sweet, chunky baby! And later we had to give him shots. :(
Chris Walker

May 24, 2016

the quest for kodiaks

Three years ago, New Tribes Mission Aviation’s quest for a Kodiak for Papua New Guinea began. It was one based on the need to replace our older, less efficient 206 program with the newer, more efficient (and let’s face it, much cooler) aircraft, the Quest Kodiak. This is an airplane designed by bush pilots with missions in mind. It can take off heavier and faster, and land shorter than the 206’s we were flying, plus it’s big squishy tires means it doesn’t tear up the grass strips our missionaries work so hard to build and maintain.
Josh and I standing with Kodiak #3
The decision was made to replace the six 206’s with just 3 Kodiaks. This would use the same amount of pilots, but with two man crews and increased payload, it would be more efficient and ultimately cheaper for our missionaries. At 2.5 million dollars an airplane, this was not a cheap goal… but nothing is impossible for our God.

NTMA sent a pilot to PNG to begin flying another mission’s Kodiak, building his in-country hours, increasing his training, and kickstarting our own Kodiak program. The drawback? NTMA didn’t own a Kodiak, and only had about $10,000 towards the first one. But the Lord honored their step of faith, and within months of sending Jon Leedahl to PNG, the first Kodiak was purchased. You probably remember the rest, that Jon was in a life-threatening accident which resulted in his leg being amputated above the knee. This was disheartening and humbling, reminding all of NTMA that everything, including airplanes, personnel, and training is in God’s hands.

In order to drive that reminder home some more, God brought along some generous donors who bought the second and third Kodiaks for Papua New Guinea! Now we had 3 brand new Kodiaks ready to be outfitted and ferried across the Pacific Ocean to Papua New Guinea.
Our team!
On May 5, 2016 the third and final Kodiak landed in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, ready to begin serving the people and missionaries we love so much. It was a time of worship, thankfulness, excitement, and relief that it had finally made it (and there would be no more headache of importing an airplane). Within just a few days, it was up and flying along with its two sisters.


It’s humbling to be a part of this small piece of history… the quest for a Kodiak, and the closing of one program to open a new one. It’s very clear that God was in these airplanes’ journeys from the beginning, and He will continue to be there as these aircraft fly personnel, groceries, building materials, Bibles, medicine, and other supplies in order to support our missionaries planting and building churches in the some of the most remote places in the world.
Three answers to prayers!
Photo by Ryan Farran
On a completely unrelated to aviation note... Here's a couple more fun things: 

  • I love Downton Abbey, and so do a lot of other ladies here. Unfortunately, due to our location it takes a long time for us to actually see stuff. But one of my dear friends' mum gifted her (and us!) with the final season of Downton. We watched them all over a couple of weeks, and then had a lovely tea so we could watch the finale together. There were all sorts of sandwiches, dainties, and of course, tea. It was such a fun evening pulling party "crackers", drinking with our pinkies out, and being dressed up in our best Downton garb! :)
  • Yesterday I celebrated my 25th birthday! It was pretty low key, which is just how I like it. 
  • Today I was supposed to fly into one of our bush locations with some of our medical staff in order to run an immunization clinic for their village. Unfortunately, due to bad weather on both ends, we had to reschedule our flight for tomorrow at dawn. 
My Downton inspired outfit.



May 10, 2016

overdue america blog

This blog has been a long time coming… You know by now that I process life through words (and coffee!), but for some reason or another, sometimes the words aren’t there. Blogging became a burden, so I decided to take a break. I think I can officially declare this the end of that blogging break. Thanks for understanding!
Ready to go to America!
Josh and I are back in Papua New Guinea after spending 5 weeks in America. Between the two of us, there were 17 flights and countless hours spent in airports, and even more cups of coffee. I can now check circumnavigating the globe off of my bucket list – I was pretty excited until I realized that this is time number 7 for Josh. Missionary kids, I tell ya.

It was a surprisingly (and wonderfully!) busy trip. We arrived on Josh’s 25th birthday, which ended up being about 36 hours long because of all of our travel. Yay for birthdays and crossing the International Date Line! Unfortunately, we spent almost all of that time on airplanes or in airports. At least there was fast and free internet for most of it! We downloaded all the things.

We first went to my parents’ house where we celebrated Easter a week early, since everyone was in town and not working that day. It was so nice to hang out for the day and catch up face to face.
Game night and lake time!
Easter morning! I got to sing in the choir.
The next week we were able to be at our home church for Easter – which I was just over the moon about. Easter is my favorite holiday, y’all! I love the journey to the cross… it’s such a great reminder of the enormity of what Jesus did for me – of what love really is, what I was freely and undeservedly given, the cost of my freedom from sin, and the humility of my great God. The rest of the afternoon was spent soaking up the Florida sunshine. My favorite.
Best friends - reunited!
Josh and I were in Florida together for about 10 days before we left for Wisconsin to see our best friends. Because of ticket arrangements (and the last minute addition of me), we were on 2 different airlines for those flights… we attracted some funny looks as we walked through security together, kissed, and then parted ways to opposite terminals. Josh was in Wisconsin for 3 days, and I was there for 1 week. We spent the only truly nice day (where it didn’t snow) walking around the Milwaukee zoo. It was good for my heart to jump back into life with them once more.
Josh flying the only live-motion Kodiak simulator in the world!

After Josh’s 3 days in Wisconsin, we parted ways again and he headed out to the Spokane Turbine Center in Washington to begin his Kodiak courses. He spent the remaining 2 and a half weeks of our trip out in the Pacific Northwest learning what makes turbine engines tick, and flying a simulator. He was able to spend one of the weekends with some good friends in Oregon, and had some great fellowship with them.
Josh in Oregon with great friends!

Breakfast with my beautiful mama!
The rest of my time was spent hanging out with my family and close friends, those people who are dearest to my heart. One of the highlights was getting to be a part of my best friend’s bridal shower, bachelorette party, and general wedding prep. There was plenty of shopping and long chats over cups of coffee. It was so nice to just look at pretty things… as my friend Gemma recently said, “Things bought {in PNG} are generally purposeful, rather than pretty.” After being here for almost 10 months when we left, I had a much better idea of what I missed or what I wished I had brought the first time around.
Laughter is so good for the soul. PS this girl is getting MARRIED! *hearteyes*

This describes our relationship beautifully.
While Josh and I were apart, we celebrated 5 years of marriage! It’s a little bit hard to believe that it’s only been 5 years… It feels like we’ve just always done life together. Even though we weren’t together on the actual day, we talked almost constantly, and were able to have a really nice dinner “date” in the airport in LA where we met up, just hours before our flights back to PNG. Josh and I have always had adventures, and I know that there are many more on the horizon of our life together. Not everyone gets to do life with their best friend – but I’m so glad that I do. Here’s to the next 60 years (at least) babe!
Turbine engine class for Josh!
When people ask how my trip was… I generally answer “Tasty.” It seems we ate our fill of beef, real processed, lovely, gristle-less beef. Who knew I would one day talk about the beauty of beef? #missionaryproblems I also tried to eat as many kinds of cheese as I could find. We do get cheese, very good New Zealand cheese, but after eating Gouda and Edam and occasionally Cheddar for 10 months straight… I would have slayed for some goat cheese. Luckily, I didn’t have to.
Josh's birthday supper - MEAT!
The many things that I worried about before we left on our trip weren’t nearly as bad as I was afraid they’d be. I was able to jump back into life and I didn’t feel so disconnected from my own culture. I was able to reconnect immediately with my family and friends, and I was able to relax and just be present. Those were huge blessings!

Thank you for praying for us during this trip, I know it was your prayers and God’s unending grace that allowed me to really relax and enjoy that time with my family and friends. It was an unexpected gift to be able to go back to America for those 5 weeks so soon after arriving in PNG, and one that I am so thankful for. I’m not sure I would have coped well with 5 weeks in PNG without Josh, knowing that he was downloading all the things and eating all the beef and cheese the country holds.
I love traveling with this guy! <3 td="">
I’ll be back later with a more recent update… including our newest airplane and a themed tea party for grownups! J